NC 12 speed limit to stay at 35 mph permanently in Southern Shores

Published 8:06 am Monday, August 29, 2022

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The Southern Shores Town Council has voted to reduce the year-round speed along the entire length of NC 12 within the town from 45 mph to 35 mph.

In years past, the town has lowered the speed to 35 from May 15 to September 15 for safety reasons because of the influx of traffic and pedestrians.

However, council members are seeing more vehicles in the shoulder season and even in the late winter months, prompting a speed study to determine the safest traveling rate.

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North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) performed a speed study at the request of the town and determined, based on multiple factors including car crash statistics, the number of driveways and intersections and the type of road and area, that the speed should be reduced to 35 mph permanently.

According to the report, which used data from 2017 to 2022, the crash rate on NC 12 in Southern Shores is higher than the state average for similar roads.

The town also utilized a web-based tool, USLIMITS2, that recommended a speed of 40 mph.

Council members discussed the pros and cons of changing the speed limit. Paula Sherlock noted from the report that the number of driveways affected in that stretch of road is 202. “I know a lot of us have a lot of trouble getting in and out of our driveways, and an increased speed limit doesn’t help. There are 21 intersections with no light, and I think there are four that have lights. There are a number of crosswalks and I know that residents want more crosswalks but I don’t think it’s really safe to be putting crosswalks when you’ve got a 45 mile an hour speed limit. If you reduce it to 35 then I think people have a chance of safely getting across the road,” she said.

Council member Matt Neal questioned whether the speed reduction needed to be all year, citing facts in the report that accidents happen just as frequently at low speeds.

The discussion returned to crosswalks, with council member Mark Batenic stating that those who wait are “incredibly vulnerable” because frequently cars do not stop for pedestrians.

“We know for certain that speed matters when there is an accident,” Mayor Elizabeth Morey added. “Whether it’s a vehicle on a vehicle, or a vehicle on a bicycle, or a vehicle on a pedestrian, the speed of the vehicle matters. If we have 35 rather than 45, we’ll have potentially better outcomes when we have those interactions. Because we know if they can go the speed limit, they will.”

The motion passed 5-0. The new speed limits will take effect as soon as new signs are installed.